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Serbian media group demands public discussion on copyright law

(ANEM/IFEX) - 23 November 2012 - The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) strongly condemns the Serbian Government's decision to adopt the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Copyright and Related Rights and forward it to the National Parliament. ANEM also condemns the Serbian Government's decision to ignore most of the proposals for its amendment made by ANEM and sent by the association to the Government of Serbia, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development and the Intellectual Property Office in mid-July of this year.

Immediately after the formation of the new government, led by the Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, ANEM demanded that the Law on Copyright and Related Rights be amended due to drastic increases in fees that are threatening to destroy broadcasters in Serbia. ANEM notified the government about the Tariff of Sokoj that was approved by the Commission for Copyright and Related Rights in December the last year, which increased several fold the average fee paid by stations for broadcasting of music. Even with additional discounts specified in the approved Protocol, concluded between ANEM and Sokoj, which halved the fees, they are still prohibitively expensive for most of the media outlets in Serbia.

ANEM notified the government in July that the media industry had been hit since the advertising market had contracted by one sixth since 2008. ANEM also pointed out that the law, which resulted in enormous increase of the fees for copyright and related rights at the same time when the advertising market was contracting, must necessarily be changed. In September and October this year, the Republic Broadcasting Agency (RBA) initiated 67 processes aimed at revoking broadcasting licenses of electronic media due to unpaid fees for broadcasting licenses. Unreasonable taxes burdening the Serbian media, including the unreasonably high fees for copyright and related rights, have already decimated the media scene in Serbia and may result in a complete media blackout and without information.

It is commendable that the Government of Serbia intends to amend the Law on Copyright and Related Rights. However, it is regrettable that the government is doing this without consulting all stakeholders and without a public discussion. As it turns out, the lack of public discussion has resulted in a draft law that completely ignores the problems of media. The text adopted by the government has taken into account the demands of importers of technical equipment and craftsmen, but has completely ignored equally justified demands of the media. The government is obviously of the opinion that the rules for calculation of fees paid by the media, as stipulated by the Article 170 of the current Law on Copyright and Related Rights, should not be changed – the Draft Law does not amend any of these rules. Unfortunately, this fact shows that the new government does not understand the problems of the media community in Serbia at all.

For this reason, ANEM insists that the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Copyright and Related Rights, which has been submitted by the government to the National Parliament for adoption, be withdrawn from the parliament and subjected to public discussion. ANEM insists that the Draft Law include amendments proposed by the association to the government and the relevant ministry in July of this year, and especially that the Article 170 of the said law should be modified in a way that would, firstly, clearly stipulate that each fee paid by the media has to take into account the specific characteristics of each market and the actual situation in the market and, secondly, prevent collective organizations from making their tariffs meaningless by defining excessively high minimum fees.

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